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April 30th, 2009

on dandelions and technology

dandelion hair

People become too practical to enjoy the simplest things. Take the dandelion. A child knows what to do with a dandelion, once its flower departs and a head full of white seeds remains. One blows on that dandelion, and watches the seeds float away on their cotton-gossamer wings. Maturity robs children of delights, and replaces them with other, less carefree delights which prove more insistent but ultimately far more complicated.

I took a few seeds from a dandelion. I liked the feel of their soft-smooth-fiber against my fingers. I placed one under my microscope. The image proved more algal than ethereal. People constantly spend their time proving that the carousel horses consist of wood and paint. I put the image in the picnik photo filter and altered the hue a bit from the blue native to my cheap plastic microscope.

The first change looked vaguely like long hair on a woman's bare shoulder. If one looks a bit more closely, however, the floral nature of the strands becomes obvious. Children blow on dandelions, and watch the seeds float away. No child requires a microscope to see its detailed attractions.

When one puts a drip of ditch water under a microscope lens, worlds of protozoa spin and propel through the field of vision. I like that protozoa culture suitable for microscopy arises through the simple expedient of putting a broom straw in a glass of water and waiting. I like the way that a rotifer spins a bit like a Norelco razor.

I remain glad that science gets harnessed for the cause of keeping epidemics from turning into black deaths. Yet I love, too, that science and technology and sheer machineless imagination all lend themselves to sturdy use in the day-to-day search for wonder--and the inner heart of dandelions.